Refried beans are a bit of a strange mystery. They’re a type of Mexican food that a lot of people are happy to accept at face value without really knowing what they are. A number of brands sell refried beans in a tin, or in a sachet, alongside a meal kit for some tacos, for example.

Homemade healthy refried beans from scratch taste a lot better than shop-bought ones, I promise. Plus, this recipe freezes well! This means you can make a batch in advance and then thaw out a portion or two for taco night.

large saucepan with refried beans mixture

How to make healthy refried beans

Start off, as with most Mexican recipes, with lighter frying spray, and your onion and garlic. In this recipe, you aren’t at risk of overwhelming anything with these flavours, so you can go a bit crazy with the size of your chunks.

large saucepan with chopped onions

The important thing here is that the onion and garlic get completely and thoroughly softened. Chewing through a mouthful of these tasty beans will be ruined if you suddenly have to crunch through a chunk of onion.

The easiest way to soften onions reliably and quickly, in my opinion, is to add them to the pan, allow them to heat through, and then put the lid on. This will generate some steam which both softens your onions particularly and helps them to stop them sticking, which is always a pain when you come to do the dishes.

beans and onions for refried beans in a large saucepan

After your onion and garlic are softened, add in the mixed beans once you have rinsed and drained the beans. Black beans would be in keeping with typical Mexican food, but anything will work.

Here it’s worth adding in a splash of water and recovering the pot. That way, the steam will help to soften your beans slightly before you add seasoning.

Seasoning your healthy refried beans

When the time comes to season, remove everything from the heat. I took my pan across to my chopping board, but that might be a little too far. Add in your seasonings one by one, waiting until you’ve added all of them to mash and mix.

For this recipe, I added salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and dried chillies. None of these particularly function as aromatics, so they don’t really need a bloom.

I used roughly half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, and that was the perfect amount for me. The recipe could stand a little more if you like heat. If you’re using fresh chillies instead, remember to add them at the start, along with your onion and garlic.

pan ready to cook the refried beans

After adding those seasonings, add in your lime juice. I used the juice of one whole lime, though you can use more or less depending on your tastes.

I will say that lime juice is one of the things that particularly brings together all the other ingredients in the dish, so you can be quite heavy-handed with it. Now there’s a good amount of liquid in the pan, you can mash the beans.

How to mash refried beans

Using a standard potato masher, or an electric one if you prefer, gently squish everything in the pan. You may need to go round a few times, as the beans are quite small. The texture you’re aiming for is a paste with a few beans still left whole dispersed throughout.

steaming pan of refried beans

Serving healthy refried beans

After mashing, taste for seasoning and ensure they’re piping hot throughout before serving. I love refried beans on tacos with a generous dollop of sour cream!

refried beans with crisp in a small bowl in foreground with guacamole and salsa in small bowls in the background
Food Appetizers Chips and Salsa Refried Beans Guacamole on Wood Cutting Board

If you like this you might also like these recipes

If this recipe is something you like then here are some other popular recipes I think you might like.

Tangy chilli salsa

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Sweet potato and spinach quesadilla

Moroccan tagine

Cajun chicken

Chicken and lime tacos


Tex Mex Quinoa

Mexican salad

Beef in black bean sauce

Jacket potato guide with lots of tasty fillings including sweetcorn, onion and mushroom topping.

Smoky baked beans or Boston baked beans.

I have a lot of weight loss guides and support if you want to exercise including if you have a condition like fibromyalgia.

Have a good look around and see how I can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Request my free resources to get you started too!

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refried beans in a pan

How to make healthy Refried Beans

  • Author: Jen Mellor
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 Portions 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove top, hob
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Low Calorie


Give Taco Tuesday a burst of flavour with this healthier spin on a tex-mex classic!



1 small onion, peeled and finely diced.

34 cloves garlic, peeled and minced.

400g tin mixed beans, drained and rinsed.

The juice of one lime.

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Coriander

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp ground black Pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli or chilli powder


Add a little low calorie spray to the frying pan and allow it to come to heat. Add the onions and garlic, and allow to heat. Add the lid to the pot, and let steam until the onions and garlic are softened and slightly golden-brown.

Add the mixed beans, along with a splash of water. Mix thoroughly, add a lid, and return to the heat. Let the beans steam for 1-2 minutes.

Add in your seasonings. Add the powders first: cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and dried chili. Mix thoroughly. Add in the lime juice, and mix again.

Mash gently several times into a ‘chunky paste’. This is the desired consistency.

Taste for seasoning, and serve immediately, while piping hot.

If you’re hoping to freeze this, then place the hot beans into an airtight container with the lid removed. Allow them to cool to room temperature completely before placing the lid on, and adding them to the freezer. They will keep for approximately three months if frozen.

Keywords: refried beans, Mexican food, refried bean recipe

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One Comment

  1. We love Mexican food here… and these were almost as good as our favourite restaurant’s refried beans. Thanks for sharing!